Success Stories:

Sidney Garfield and Henry J. Kaiser

Dams, Ships, and Healthcare  

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In the Mojave Desert in a 12-bed hospital is Dr. Sydney Garfield, treating a worker from the Colorado River Aqueduct Project with a wounded arm. The worker has no insurance, but Garfield treats him anyway. To Dr. Garfield, healthcare is not something that can be refused based on money.

 Enter Harold, an insurance agent aware of the pitfalls of a system that pays Doctors after the bills are due. He suggests a prepaid plan: a fixed amount a day per covered worker upfront. Dr. Garfield was in. For five cents a day workers were provided healthcare, and if they chipped in an extra 5 cents they could receive treatment for none work medical issues. Thus, Garfield’s Hospital was saved from financial ruin.

 The Aqueduct was finished in 1935 and Dr. Garfield prepared to relocate himself. Enter Henry J. Kaiser, a successful Industrialist with the government contract of building the Grand Coulee Dam. He had 6,500 workers and their families in the largest construction site in history in need of health care. A Garfield was the man he wanted for the job. The families loved the advent of “prepaid group practice.” However, this venture soon ended with the completion of the Dam in 1941. Then came World War II, bringing with it tens of thousands of workers flooding into shipyards and factories. Kaiser built seven shipyards and brought Garfield in as his Doctor.

The war came to an end and the massive shipyards once packed with workers grew barren. However, Kaiser and Garfield recognized the importance of their healthcare plan for workers, and in 1945 the Permanente Health Plan official opened to the public.

 These two men recognized a need and took direct action to completely revolutionize the healthcare industry for decades to come.

“Kaiser Permanente Antelope Valley” by Daysi Photography is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 

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